July 15, 2020

The Benefits of Marketing Deja Vu

Do you ever get that weird sense of deja vu? You knew exactly what your colleague was about to say or what would happen next. It feels like you’ve seen it all before. Technically this is caused by a delay between the two sides of your brain processing the information; one side sees the event subconsciously and then again when you fully recognise the event. This causes that side of the brain to believe it’s seen the same thing twice.

In marketing, it often feels like every campaign is just a series of deja vu. Brands copying other brands, replication of stories and a general homogeneity between all the advertising we see. When it’s your day job to be looking at the marketing efforts of brands, this can be frustrating. We urge our clients to break out of the mould and do the unexpected.

Brands are taught to be disruptive. Explode into your market with a unique product and the marketing to match. Double the efforts of competitors and stand out.

^ This is often terrible advice.

Think back to your school years; did you adore the kid that always had to be the centre of attention or did it start to become a little tedious? By our very human nature, we connect with brands on a personal level and that means we need to like them for what they stand for. So many of us don’t like change or the extremes. As a result, we’re more inclined to want to interact with brands which we feel familiar with.

In marketing, it is the deja vu effect that helps us to connect with brands and gain confidence to buy.

Applying this to your marketing

As good as the deja vu effect can be, no one wants their brand to feel boring or repetitive. As a result, we need to find practical ways to help consumers feel familiar with our brands.


The first step in gaining audience trust, and ensuring they connect with your brand quickly, is to make the user experience feel familiar. To do this, it’s about understanding the mechanics they’re already used to and applying them to your product or service.

The very basics of this are to consider your points of interaction – which parts of your site, or app, do you expect users to be click on or swiping? Understand how this matches up to the way that they use other sites, both within the sector and in their favourite publications.

For example; look at the way a popular app such as Tinder works. It was one of the first apps to introduce the swiping to new content as the only method of navigation. Just two years later, Bumble launched using a similar mechanism. Within the dating sector, it’s clear that users understand the concept of swiping between potential suitors. Scaling this to a wider audience, in 2016 Google launched AMP as a quicker way for users to view content in the search results. The content is fast access, and for the ‘want it now’ culture who are consuming countless pieces of content on the go. Interestingly enough, it used the same swiping method as apps such as Tinder, which has encouraged the younger generations to quickly adapt to using AMP.


When you’re creating a brand from scratch, or rebranding an existing business, the aim is to create something that is recognisable and really resonated with the audience. From a visual perspective, there are some simple ways to use deja vu and repetition to help improve your chances of success.

If you’re launching a new brand style, colours and formatting, take a look at similar brands in the market. Using a tool like stylifyme.com on a range of sites which are targeting the same demographic or sector, will help you to understand common themes. For example; most B2C finance sites involve some shade of green or websites targeted at older audiences tend to use fonts with serifs as body text as it’s clearer to read in a large font. Don’t just copy the competition, but use some insights like this to make a better-informed decision on how your brand is going to appear.

Furthermore, make sure you are emphasising the familiarity by being consistent in the branding you use. For all graphics and marketing campaigns, the colours, fonts etc should be in line with that of your main website and other points of contact with the consumer. This is going to help boost how recognisable you are. If you’re using out of home advertising, there’s a chance that consumers will not even recall seeing your adverts on their way to work, but when they see a similar visual online later then they’ll be hit by that sense of deja vu.


The final element where deja vu can support your marketing efforts is in the messaging you use. Whilst you don’t want to bore consumers by using the same words in every campaign, you do need consumers to associate your core taglines with your business. To do this, they need to see them again and again in your marketing.

The Rule of 7 states that consumers have to hear your brand messaging seven times before they’ll take action and begin the purchasing process. Whilst it’s debatable how accurate the seven is in these studies, it is certain that repeated messages are much more effective. For example; Nike has used to the slogan ‘Just Do It’ since 1988 and Wheaties have referred to themselves as ‘The Breakfast of Champions’ since 1927. These long-standing slogans have become part of our daily lives and are known worldwide, which is incredible considering Wheaties aren’t even readily available in the UK.

It can be tempting to want to do a brand refresh and change the core statements that you’re using as a business with each big campaign you invest in. However, this isn’t going to help with your familiarity factor.

How much Deja Vu is too much?

There’s a fine line when it comes to using this as a marketing technique. Replication of another brands ideas is dodgy ground, as of course, it’s important to be unique. Looking identical, or using the same messages, as your competitors who are already in the market will only make you appear more untrustworthy.

However, repeating your own message and branding will help consumers feel more comfortable with it, inherently building trust in your product/service. When using competitor insight, the most value can be taken from utilising the usability of their sites. Understand the way consumers are used to interacting with their brands to know how they will expect with yours. It will provide the foundations for brand trust, and disruptive innovation can occur once you already have a strong customer base.

Remember – deja vu isn’t always a bad thing when it comes to marketing.

Post from Hannah Thorpe

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